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1 Peter 1:13-16 NRSV Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
We have dogs. Currently, we have one dog, but often we have more than one. People know that we rescue poodles, and we are often called to see if we will give a poodle a home. In the past two years, the "yard" that our dogs have enjoyed has changed considerably. First, it was the portable yard that we use for our RV. We bought two units and attached them together, so it was about 6x4 feet. Not very big, but for small dogs, large enough to walk around. Last year, when we moved into the trailer, the yard was considerably larger. There was room to run and play a bit, certainly lots of room to nose around and smell (which the dogs loved to do). In this house, the yard is huge in comparison to anything we've had previously. It's a big lot and the back yard goes from edge to edge. It's possible not to be able to see our little poodle just looking out the back door; the yard is that big.
One thing every yard had in common was some kind of a fence. The fence is both a protection from at least some of the predators getting in (though there are still those, like snakes, that can get in under the fence) and a protection from the dogs getting out of the yard and being at risk of being hit by cars or stolen by thieves.
The fence is a protection.
Psalm 89:3a (NRSV) "I have made a covenant with my chosen one."
There is amazing power in this statement for three reasons. The first is that we -- as God's adopted children -- were chosen by Him! Isn't that wonderful? It's beyond comprehension for me that, at the beginning of creation, even before time began, God looked down at all the souls and chose me! (He chose every person who would respond to His love and His call to salvation). Paul writes:
Just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love. He destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6 NRSV
I'm adopted. My birth mom, as I understand it, was an unwed pregnant teen and, with an amazing amount of courage, understood that she was ill prepared to care for a baby. So, my parents who couldn't have children, chose to adopt me. They didn't have to. They could have even come to the hospital, viewed my bald head and tiny feet, and rejected me. But they didn't. Instead, my parents chose me and gave me a wonderful home and childhood.
God's Will is for us to:
- 1) read His Word,
2) Consume His Word,
3) Participate In Communion,
4) Worship Him,
5) Pray Daily,
6) Share the Gospel With Those Who Have Not Yet Heard,
7) Care for the sick and elderly,
8) Exemplify Jesus in our life,
9) Do everything we do as if we were doing for God alone,
10) Obey the laws of our land,
11) Meet with other believers on a regular basis,
12) Prepare for the return of the Lord Jesus,
13) Love our friends AND
14) our enemies,
15) Love God with your heart, soul, mind and spirit,
16) Follow the golden rule and likely many more things I cannot alone think of.
Psalm 89:1-2 (NRSV)
I will sing of Your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that Your steadfast love is established forever; Your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
There is a great deal wrong with our society and within each person (since social ills begin within the individual heart). As a believer who lives in an extremely secular (and sinful) society (California), I could spend my days focused upon how much is wrong with all around me, bemoaning my fate and wondering what shoe will fall next. Or, I can choose with the psalmist to focus instead upon the Creator and Master of all, trusting that God is going to work out and win out in the long haul.
Father God's love is steadfast. The Hebrew word checed translated thus is interesting. Vine's expounded on its meaning:
- "In general, one may identify three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: 'strength,' 'steadfastness,' and 'love.' Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. 'Love' by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet 'strength' or 'steadfastness' suggests only the fulfillment of a legal or other obligation.
- 1. DEFINITION: Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief. See Synonyms at trust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.
Why is faith so important? Some leaders of the Christian life say that faith is the foundation of our beliefs and life.
Faith has the power to heal us when we ask Jesus and trust Him.
Isaiah 5:20 (NRSV).
Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Over the years, I have learned to try to analyze my thoughts and actions, to discover why I think the way I do or act the way I choose. I say "try" because I’m not always successful at doing it. I am greatly influenced by the society around me, a society which isn’t trustworthy and which, if I were wise, I would ignore when it comes to making choices.
I look back over my life and see many places where I should have made different decisions, where I could have made better choices. I see so many times when I have been (and still am) self-indulgent rather than obedient to God's will. Just this morning, I read a snippet written by a dear Christian sister. It said, "Will I cooperate [with God’s plan] despite emotional pain?" Will I take the hard road?
Then Samuel told the whole house of Israel, "If you're returning to the Lord with all your heart, then remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, direct your hearts back to the Lord, and serve him only. Then he will deliver you from the control of the Philistines." 1 Samuel 7:3, NET Bible
I have to look seriously at who – or what – I am serving. For I can be easily deceived if I am not regularly submitting myself to the Lord my God.
There are many things I can serve in this world, none of which honour Jesus: I can serve money, other people, addictions to various substances or activities – I can even serve an addiction to people if what they think of me, or if their opinion, is more important to me than His opinion or what the Lord thinks of me.
Something else that I can become a servant to is my emotions. It is so easy for me to become overwhelmed by my feelings, and when I do, I can begin to quickly bow down to them. When anger rears its ugly head in me, it is all too natural for me to lash out at my husband or the nearest loved one to me. However, the Lord says in His Word:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1, NIV84
When I feel discouraged and overwhelmed by a task that is before me, it is simple for me to say, "I just can't do this!" But the Word of the Lord speaks differently:
Sometimes I fail to take time to just stop and be still with the Lord, meditating on just what it means that, "I was sanctified, I was justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:1-11 NIV
It is truly amazing to know that Almighty, holy God set me apart for Himself, which is what it means to be sanctified. I am holy – set apart – separated from those who do not know Him; set apart from those who have not been washed clean in and by the shed blood of Jesus.
Why have I been set apart? Not because of anything that I have done or could ever do, but because of the finished work of Jesus on Calvary's cross. When Jesus gave His very life up for me, He had faith that His sacrifice of Himself would pay the price, the penalty, for my sins – past, present, and future! And because someone told me about His amazing atoning sacrifice for me and I believed in this Good News through the God-given gift of faith, I have been justified: I have had my sins washed away by the blood of Jesus! For to be justified means that it is the same as if I had never sinned. To be justified means that I am just, no longer guilty of the wrongs that I have committed; I am innocent before the throne of God! In His eyes, it is as if I had never sinned!
Praise be to God in Christ Jesus our Lord! My Abba! Father loved me so much that He allowed His only Son to suffer an excruciating death for me, for you, for all of humanity, that we might believe and be washed clean in His blood and saved from the eternal death that is the penalty of our sin! And when I accept Jesus' gift of perfect atonement for me by faith, I am granted eternal life, a life that is meant to be lived with abundant love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and, self-control. I cannot help but think of Psalm 27:1:
Hebrews 7:21-22, 24-25 NRSV
"The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,‘You are a priest forever' " -- accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant. . . . He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently He is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Can Jesus save... that person, that situation, that problem, that illness, that sin? Can Jesus save? I think the answer ("yes") is something I believe intellectually, but not always something I believe in faith. I do have the choice of trusting (having faith) or observing (looking at what I believe are the facts) and often I choose the "facts" over faith.
I like optical illusions. But I have to admit, sometimes I don't get them. I look and look and just can't see what it is I'm supposed to see. It's the same with jokes. Often I listen to them and then... nothing. I just didn't hear the humor (while my husband is bent over laughing). Both are, in a sense, illusions for a reason. They take "fact" and twist it for a purpose (to amuse). So, I think, facts are not static. Facts are not, then, the same as truth because facts can obviously be manipulated.
There is much to be said about forgiveness and the impact it has one each life. The Bible holds hundreds of examples of people who have experienced first-hand, being forgiven of wrongful deeds: King David, Peter the disciple when he denied knowing Jesus three times, the woman caught in adultery, Paul who murdered hundreds of Christians before his conversion, Cain who killed his brother Abel because Abel's sacrifice was accepted and Cain's was not are just some to name a few who experienced the forgiveness of God in their life first-hand.
The sole purpose behind the come of Jesus Christ as a human was that He died as an atonement for our sins. He hung on the cross in our place. By all rights, WE should be the ones hanging on the cross. After all, Jesus was WITHOUT ANY SIN, but we were born into sin, yet it was Jesus who died and it is us who live.
If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. 1 John 1:8.
For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Romans 3:23.